Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sword musings...

For anybody that still cares :), after mulling over my Belly Dance Solo Crisis last night, and getting a little feedback, I decided that I really want to give it a go with my sword for the upcoming hafla. I gave the issue some careful thought last night plus I spent some time at lunch browsing the boards at Bhuz, the big online belly dance community that I lurk at, and I found some great words of wisdom there.

What I realized is that I am genuinely good at balancing the sword, and it's really important to allow yourself to recognize your strengths (and weaknesses, of which there are many). I'm good at balancing it on my *head* that is. I don't like to balance the sword on my hip (I saw a dancer do this once, and I swear it, my heart nearly stopped beating it looked so precarious and I was so nervous for her) and I cannot balance it on my shoulder without the skin there turning beet red, and that isn't exactly a pleasing sight for the audience.

And please, for the love of all that is holy, let us agree that one should never, EVER balance a sword across ones breasts. Never.


I've seen dancers who really enjoy the "lead up" to balancing the sword, lots of finagling with the sword, wielding it around. I really don't do that. I agree that there has to be *some* anticipation, it makes the eventual balancing seem more impressive. But I don't linger over this.

So, what do all of these ramblings mean? When a dancer performs, she should capitalize on what she is good at. I'm a good dancer, and I isolate well, and that's why I took to balancing so happily. My song has a nice introduction, and what I plan to do is let a little music go by prior to entering (I always do this when I solo, it's another way of building up some nice anticipation. The audience is waiting for YOU, not the other way around; one has to find their inner diva to be a belly dancer, trust me, you simply have no choice) and then "just dance" for a minute or so, enjoying my freedom of movement with no prop. So I can travel a lot, be real gooey, all that good stuff.

Then I can pick up my sword and dance with it for a short bit in my hands, the anticipation building thing. Then I balance, and there's maybe a minute and a half to two minutes left in the music. There is a part of the song that picks up a bit and this is a good time to do some shimmies while balancing and perhaps a spin if the sword karma is working in my favor. If I'm feeling at all nervous about it I do NOT spin with the sword on my head. Just not worth it. There is plenty of other things that I can do while balancing. Lots of hip and torso movement and I can do some gentle traveling.

For some reason it made me feel better to realize that I don't need to get fancy with the sword. I can dance well with it on my head and that is enough all by itself. Many dancers do floorwork with the sword, and while that can be beautiful, I usually choose not to do this, it's not really my thing. I don't really have enough time for the careful getting down and getting back up since I want to dance without the sword for a time prior to balancing.

I think that one important thing I have learned since I started performing is to cherish each movement. It's easy to think to yourself: "oh this is *boring*! The audience will be bored if I don't do something different RIGHT NOW!" If you feel confident and project that confidence into your dance even into the simplest hip drop looks amazing and beautiful to the audience.

Claire had a wonderful anecdote once that really stuck with me. She was hired to do a bellygram and the space that she had to dance in was very small. She busted out her best movements to try and compensate and balanced her sword with aplomb. But it was only when she stopped dancing and paused to simply gaze over her shoulder at her audience while merely sweeping her arm back and undulating her hands that she heard somebody say, "Oh wow, she's good."

So I'm going to practice with the sword tonight. I thought maybe I could start by crafting a few combinations that will work with sword and then I can try improvising later this week. As you can imagine, you cannot move your head quickly when you're balancing a prop and you have to be very careful with your arms lest you knock the sword off your own head.

Ask me how I know this.

But you can change level (very carefully) and travel a bit so I'm going to work on those things and build my confidence. I genuinely enjoy dancing with my sword, as opposed to my veil. I *want* to love my veil, but the whole time I know I'm sending hateful vibes its way such as "God, I loathe when you tangle like that" and "if I develop a case of static cling I will burn you in the backyard before nightfall."

I hope this goes well. But I feel better after writing this post, so thank you for listening. :)

St. Gerard Novena, Day 5...

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy belly dancing news...

My bellydance studio has moved to a new home and my class danced there this past Friday. BEAUTIFUL.

It was funny, because the building hadn't been rented in years and years and was in sore need of some TLC. We're talking shag carpet on the walls, hideous light fixtures, unexplainable garlic skins littered everywhere, and a bathroom that needed to be gutted. The performance group took some "before photos" over there about a month ago.

Seeing it now you would never know it's the same place. Bright pink, gold and orange abound, it's very "genie in a bottle" and just gorgeous. It's so large that we can now do group passes across the floor, which is a glorious thing.

So I'm now in a bellydance nirvana, but I'm still debating about my solo for the upcoming hafla. Today I actually made a pro and con list for using my sword during the solo (see "Is the Catholic Librarian Type A? infra).


(1) I've never danced with my sword at a hafla before. I like to keep things different from hafla to hafla to challenge myself.

(2) The sword is a crowd pleaser and people will be more likely to remember my solo. Hopefully as in "wow, remember that girl that danced with a *sword* on her head?!" rather than "wow, remember that girl that danced and the sword fell off her head?!"

(3) It's one of my strengths. Veil is not my strength, nor is cane, and zills are non-existent. But I love my sword. Most of the time.


(1) More anxiety involved with a prop. You can't control a prop in the same way you can control your own body.

(2) More room for error. It doesn't matter how many times you get that sword balanced with no trouble whatsoever during practice, in performance it's a whole different animal.

(3) More room for embarrassment and humiliation. This is a biggie.

Sooooo, what's a self respecting belly dancer to do? I have absolutely no idea. But I'm starting to have belly dancing dreams, so I know that it's on my mind.

*bites nails*

St. Gerard Novena, Day 4...

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Friday, April 26, 2013

St. Gerard Novena, Day 3

*administrative note* I'm not online much on the weekends, so this will be a "workday novena." The saints are very used to this from me, trust me. :) I'll post day 4 on Monday and we'll continue from there. Over the weekend, I'll offer my rosary for the intentions of this novena.

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is the Catholic Librarian Type A?

I mean, does that even need to be a question? Seriously, let us count the ways. But a few things came up recently that made me realize this anew. The good news is that I'm no longer young enough that I worry about being so Type A or what other people think about that. It's like the further over 30 that you get, the more you feel: HERE I AM WORLD, TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT, BUT EITHER WAY I DON'T FREAKING CARE!!

So without further ado, here for your amusement is my Type A Top 5:

(1) I'm very routine oriented.

I mean, *snort*. I'm afraid to take vacations because they will "disrupt my routine." And I love my routine. On weekdays, breakfast with Mike and the kids.  Drive in to work while listening to podcasts and praying a rosary. Park in the same lot, listen to belly dance music on the walk in (sometimes podcast if it's a particularly compelling one). Once in my office, boot up my computer and check all my tabs for new developments. Make a cup of tea. Work. Eat lunch at 11. Go for short walk. Knit with group at either 12 or 1. Work. Head back to car while listening to podcast (sometimes music, depends on dance schedule). Drive home. Have dinner with Mike and the kids. Play with kids til bedtime. Knit while watching tv with Mike. Read in bed til fall asleep. Sleep happily.

I heard an interview with a psychologist the other day who was talking about habits that we form. She said:

"You may drive one route to work but a different one home. You never switch them because 'that way would take longer!'".

I just about died laughing. That is SO true. And SO me. I do drive different routes to and from work and I wouldn't switch them for the world. IT WOULD TAKE LONGER, I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY.

(2) I like order in my physical space.

I'm not saying that my spaces aren't a tad "lived in" (they're not museums) but there isn't anything on the floor in my office except furniture. Anne has one basket of toys that I let her keep in the living room, and the instant she stops playing with something I put it back into the basket. Sometimes this turns into an exercise in frustration, but I can't help myself. I get twitchy if there is stuff on the floor. Some would call this behavior obsessive compulsive. I prefer to call it "someone who thrives amongst organization." I was trained as an attorney, I think that's fitting. It's not freakish. Really it's not.

(3) I like to keep my stuff in pristine condition.

Now, this is a particularly challenging characteristic when you have children. It is difficult to hold on to one's sense of honor about pristine things when SOMEONE IS ALWAYS MESSING WITH MY STUFF.

My books, my yarn, my dance paraphernalia, the contents of my bedside table, IS NOTHING SACRED?! Obviously, you learn to let some things go. You have to, lest you lose your mind. But it isn't easy, especially when I'm just as compulsive with the kids' toys that I buy them as I am about my own stuff.

"Anne, where are the piggy's coins? There are supposed to be 10, and now there are only 7!!"

"Honey, we're missing a few pieces from Anne's toy food collection. Please be on the lookout for an orange peel and some peas in a pod."


"Oh Anne, did you take the Our Lady of Fatima set down again? You know Mommy likes to be there when you play with that. Did Francesco roll under the couch?"


"Oh dear, we have multiple children in need. I'll move the couch!"

(4) I have belly dance index cards.

I've mentioned this before, but when I have an upcoming dance performance in which I plan to dance solo and improvise, I consult a deck of index cards on which I've written every belly dance movement I've ever learned. What I do with them when I practice is lay out a couple and then improvise to some music, making certain to use the movements on the selected cards. That way, I expand my muscle memory when it comes time to actually perform. I combine different arms with a hip movement, do the hip movement in different directions, perhaps layer the hip movement. It just acts as a brainstorming session to bring out new ideas that I'll have a better chance of remembering at crunch time.

However, I've taken it to a new level of late. My index cards have been updated and color coded. I now have 4 categories: (1) Pink for hips, (2) green for traveling steps, (3) blue for torso and shoulder movements, and (4) orange for arms. I'm now going to draw a card from each color family every time I practice improvising.

I think I'm making this into a very administrative affair because I'm a little more nervous than usual about the upcoming hafla. It's a free event for the new studio's grand reopening, and people who have never seen me dance have asked me dance questions recently. It seems natural to invite them to the hafla, and they've all beamed and said that they'd love to come.


And this when I'm planning to dust off my sword. I hope it isn't a disaster.

(5) I don't like change.

This relates back to number 1, but it's about more than a mere routine. I struggle accepting new things into my happy world and turn such new things into a Big Deal in my own mind.

"Mommy, can we get a pet?"

"No Honey. Remember, you're allergic to cats and dogs."

Whew! I love animals, but the thought of taking care of one of them is overwhelming to me. Because you know, it would be NEW.

"What about a goldfish?"

"Sweetie, I just don't think I'm ready to handle that much responsibility."

Because a goldfish is just the epitome of GRAND RESPONSIBILITY.

So there you have it. Relating back to item numbers *1 through 5*, we're having the hardwood floors in our house refinished soon and I'm FREAKING OUT about it. We have to move every piece of furniture from our living room and dining room into a combination of the kitchen and the guest room and the process is going to take a WEEK.


What am I going to do?! I won't be able to practice dance, and the hafla is right after that. Everything will be in disarray and covered in sawdust. I don't know if we'll even be able to eat in the house for a WEEK. And I'm hoping that we'll still be able to sleep there or else we're going to have to stay in one of our parents' basements for a WEEK.

This is going to suck. Badly. All I want is my routine. Is that so much to ask for?

Maybe I *am* a freak.

St. Gerard Novena, Day 2

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boys vs. Girls

From the strands of "Someday my prince will come..." emanating from our living room these days via Anne's Disney Princess Castle, comes a tale of having both a male and a female child.

"Anne, WOULD YOU TURN THAT DOWN?! I can hardly hear Spongebob!"

You know how it goes.

Anne: "Wipe!" She hates to have schmutz on her hands or to have a dirty diaper.

Henry: Would go for days without wiping his mouth or changing his underwear if we didn't intervene. Oh, and here's a gem - "Mommy I really had to go to the bathroom when I was outside playing. So I just peed over by the garage."


What is it about people with penises that makes them think that they can just use them to pee wherever they want?! THEY ARE DANGEROUS WITH THOSE THINGS.

Anne: Feeds bottles to her baby dolls and offers them food off her plate.

Henry: Eats too quickly to share with anybody.

Anne: Keeps track of her stuff. "Joan!" If a saint doll rolls under the couch, we are immediately alerted and asked to retrieve her. Yes, Anne is on an informal first name basis with her saints.

Henry: Wouldn't be able to find his own pants unless we aided him in this effort.

This all makes it sound like Anne is easier to live with than Henry. On the contrary. Henry is not a toddler and hence does not wake up on the wrong side of the crib and throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the kitchen. Nor does he throw food if he doesn't want it or refuse to put on his shoes when it's time to go anywhere.

It's always interesting in our house, to be sure.

St. Gerard Novena, Day 1

Novena to St. Gerard

Most Blessed Trinity, I, Your child, thank You for all the gifts and privileges which You granted to St. Gerard, especially for those virtues with which You adorned him on earth and the glory which You now impart to him in heaven. Accomplish Your work, Oh Lord, so that Your kingdom may come about on earth. Through his merits, in union with those of Jesus and Mary, grant me the grace for which I ask.... (Mention your request)
And you, my powerful intercessor, St. Gerard, always so ready to help those who have recourse to you, pray for me. Come before the throne of Divine Mercy and do not leave without being heard. To you I confide this important and urgent affair.... Graciously take my cause in hand and do not let me end this novena without having experienced in some way the effects of your intercession. Amen. 

Pray 9 Hail Mary's.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A new novena: St. Gerard

I had one request for a St. Gerard novena, so that's what I'm going to do. :) We can start tomorrow, and what I'll do is paste in the prayer each day, but I'm also going to offer up my daily rosary for the same intention. St. Gerard is the patron of mothers, expectant mothers, children, unborn children, childbirth, and good confessions. Sounds like a good combination to me.

Here is a link to the novena.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hip dropping on the runway, and luckily that's the only thing I dropped...

Novena stuff to follow tomorrow, still accepting comments from those suggesting a novena for us to pray starting tomorrow or Wednesday. :) But I thought I'd chronicle our belly dance performance Friday night, since it provides some needed levity.

Friday dinner time found me enjoying some stroganoff with Mike and Anne. Henry was out to dinner and a movie with his grandparents. Anne was quite taken with the armful of bangle bracelets that I wear when I dance:

"Want to hold that."

She too likes sparkly things.

After we ate, I put on my blue and silver costume, casting worrying glances at the weather outside. A high wind warning isn't exactly the optimal time to be wearing a dance costume with a mumu-like coverup. And I figured we were going to have to walk outside a bit between the parking lot and the convention center that was our dance destination. I put my raincoat on over top of the coverup and hoped for the best.

We all met up at the dance studio and piled into a few carpooling vehicles. We headed downtown.

Mumu's blowing and silk veils wrapped around our hair, we made quite a sight transversing the area between the parking garage and the convention center. I thought for sure the parking attendant was going to say something to us, but he just stuck his head out his little window, mouth agape.

Upon our entrance into the convention center, we quickly encountered Fancy People. All week long I couldn't remember what this charity event actually was. Turns out it was a fundraiser for a local legal organization assisting families and children. Thus, lots of people in formal attire and news anchors abounded.

"Who are you?! You look like movie stars!"

She exaggerated, to be sure, but I was just happy people didn't think we were freaks.

We were directed to the dressing rooms and general backstage area where we settled in. Also present were some African dancers, a small orchestra complete with tango dancers, and some Bollywood dancers. We were on the schedule for the end of the dancing segment, which was to take place while the attendees ate dinner and dessert. I assumed the fashion show was to follow.

At any rate, we snapped some pictures of ourselves and gossiped backstage as people eyed us curiously. Group performances don't make me nearly so nervous anymore as dancing solo, but this was a *large* room and it was filling up. The runway added complexity, although I could see that it in fact was quite wide and that made me feel better. We whispered plans for entering and exiting and awaited our turn.

Claire swooped out with her wings of Isis when it was bellydance time and we anxiously waited for her to finish.

"There's a gooey section toward the end; that's your cue to get ready."

And somehow, we knew precisely what she was talking about. Aforementioned gooey section came on. We cued up. I was the first one to walk out, trying to "make it count" with my hips.

I got to the front of the inverted "T" and took my place on the right front wedge. We began to dance.

It was a little awkward. People are eating dessert and sipping coffee and many of them could care less about the dancing going on. I tried my hardest to beam their way regardless and not forget the choreography. 

Somewhere around the first shimmy segment I made a somewhat disturbing realization: I recognized a woman at one of the front tables. I hadn't seen her in about 10 years, but I used to work with her back when I was a practicing attorney. That can't be her, right? What are the chances?

Oh right, very good. This is a fundraiser for a *legal* organization. She's an attorney, so there you go. And who is that guy next to her? Yep, her husband, I remember him too.

I let that sink it for a second as I began to feel even more awkward. Maybe she doesn't recognize me?! That would be ideal.

Well, it took me all of 1 second to recognize her, and I'm practically right in her face at the very front of the stage. Although I have the element of surprise on my side, the chances of her not recognizing me are pretty slim. In fact, I can see her glance my way and whisper something to her husband.

 Yes, that's right. 10 years later: other, normal people are successful and prominent attorneys. Tiffany is a belly dancer.


I swirl my veil to and fro, and shimmy for all I'm worth, but all the while everything that I'm writing is running through my head.  I recall a post in the Biz of Bellydance (a private Facebook group that I'm in) a week or so ago in which a dancer wrote to complain about a blog she had happened upon. The blog author wasn't happy that a regular belly dancer appeared at her favorite Middle Eastern restaurant and was writing about her confusion and discomfort with the situation. One of the comments that she made was that she felt bad for the dancer, and wondered why "she couldn't do better for herself; should I tell her that she could go to college instead?"

I mean, seriously. Unless you're a superstar belly dancer also selling instructional DVD's and putting on internationally attended workshops, a person could NEVER survive on wages earned as a professional dancer. Living on what you earn in a week dancing in a restaurant and a belly gram or two? Not possible. Nearly all belly dancers have day jobs, and it made me cringe to think that other people may believe that belly dancers are these pitiable women with low self-esteem who think that they aren't smart enough to do anything else. Yikes.

The thought made me gulp as we eased into the drum segment of our number. I kept my gaze up, beaming at the EXIT sign at the back of the room and danced my little heart out. When our music ended, I breathed a sigh of relief.

We got lots of compliments from people backstage  as we reassembled our silk veil wind shield and headed back to our cars. The parking garage guy couldn't resist stopping us to ask who we were and what we were doing when we encountered him a second time.

We changed at the studio and went out for drinks and snacks afterward. As ever, I laughed and laughed. I love these women. I may no longer have a career that society holds in high esteem, but I'm eons happier than I ever was all those years ago.

I'll take it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Need a new novena...

Clearly. :) Here is a nice list from EWTN. I'd like to start one early next week. If anybody else wants to pray along, leave a comment with a novena suggestion and I'll post on Monday about what I pick. Then I can post and/or link to the prayers each day and we can all pray together.


Tonight I'll be preoccupied with our dance performance which frankly is a very good thing. It should be a quiet weekend and my rosary beads will get a workout. I've been dancing at home in the evenings again after Anne goes to bed to prepare for a solo at the upcoming hafla which is also a nice distraction for me. There's nothing quite like sticking a sword on your head to keep you focused.

Everybody stay safe this weekend and pray hard. And please include the very superficial intention that I not fall off the modeling runway tonight. :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My dance girls make me so happy...

Last night our troupe had an extra rehearsal to run through the number we're doing at the charity event Friday evening. We finally found out some definitive information about his ominous-sounding modeling runway that we'll be dancing on, and could practice dancing in the new formation we'll be required to make in order to fit. The runway is wider than anticipated, which is a good thing (remember: Tiffany falling off edge and landing in a heap of lycra on the floor = we don't want this). Unfortunately, I'm the first person to walk out, meaning that I need to stand in one end of the inverted 'T" all by myself, so if I screw up everybody will see me extra good. I'll do what I can.

But as always, amidst a very difficult week, we had a great time together.

Heard at the studio last night:

"Which way do we swoosh on the barrel turn? I think I'm in group 2, so do I pause, swoosh with right arm and then scoop back to neutral?"

"Do they have someplace good for us to wait before we dance? I hate when we have to stand in our costumes all crammed into a stairwell or something." (THIS IS SO TRUE. Stairwells, prop rooms, countless ladies' room stalls; once we had to change in Claire's car taking turns holding up veils as a shield.)

"Is there a dressing room there?" "Well yes, but I doubt you'll want to use it, we'd have to share with the models and I did that last time. Not good. Lots of shrieking and hair spray everywhere."

"Now you have to just walk out rather than our other entrance since we'll be on the runway. And remember! We don't *just walk*. Strut with your hips and make it count!"

"Hold your veil high when you walk out but make sure there is enough space between you and the person behind you. You don't want to suffocate anybody with your veil."

"Veil suffocation" is a very real fear in belly dance, believe me.

It was good. And in a week like this, may we all have people in our lives that can still make us laugh.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We all need a little retail therapy, so read on to be enabled...

I'm still an emotional basket case, which I think is the prevalent mood this week, so I thought I'd write a light post on some happy shopping that may inspire Mother's Day ideas to cheer us all up.

Right after Easter I was feeling the urge for a new rosary (and thank God, because I've been praying with it non-stop since it arrived last week) and so I contacted the talented Carm over at Unbreakable Rosaries on Etsy. You all know my adoration of Blessed Pope John Paul II, and I don't have a rosary with his likeness on it. Carm has gorgeous, wire-wrapped rosaries (so they will not break, even when coiled up in your pocket or purse and then tugged out to pray on every day) listed in her store, but she also takes custom orders, and I was feeling specific. :) So I gave her my modest price range and asked if she could make me a rosary in cheerful, Easter colors for the Aves, large clear crystals for the Paters, a John Paul II centerpiece, and any crucifix design that she thought looked lovely with it. This is what she made me:

Isn't it stunning? I LOVE it, and I have barely put it down since it arrived last Monday. I had it with me for our sump pump crisis, some sleepless nights with Anne, and now for this very difficult week. I've been praying with it every single day and sleeping with it under my pillow at night. See "Emotional Basket Case" referenced above, supra. The Centerpiece has John Paul II on one side, and Benedict XVI on the other (love!) and the crucifix has cut out hearts on it, with tiny Alpha and Omega symbols on the crossbars. I simply adore it. So, for the Catholic mother in your life, check out Carm's work. :) There is really no other way to say it other than that she is a true artist, and a joy to work with.

Totally unrelated to rosaries, but also very apt Mother's Day gifts, is what I'm about to talk about next. A few months ago, I went to a craft fair with my mother-in-law and kids and we met a vendor selling handmade cold-process soaps, lotions, sugar scrubs, and fragrance roll-ons. I'm a sucker for handmade soap, as is my mother-in-law, and so we bought several bars.

Flash forward to recently and I've been using the soap. LOVE IT. So moisturizing and the thing smells so good that the entire bathroom benefits from its presence in our shower. My mother-in-law also raved about her bar, how good it made her skin feel. So, for Mother's Day, I decided to get in touch with the woman who made them and order baskets for both mothers.

So I did. And she's a total doll. She made me up custom baskets for each mother with 2 soaps, a sugar scrub, a body spray, and a loofah. I also added in 2 bars of soap for myself, plus a few lip balms.

She gave me an outstanding price on everything and included an amazing number of samples of other soap scents plus a sample of her hemp lotion.

Well. It went over big. :) Henry wanted to eat the soap it smelled so good, and Mike (who uses lotion every night on his hands and lower arms) loves the hemp lotion. And the surprising thing is, so do I! I usually hate how greasy lotions make me feel, but this sinks right in and is divine. I was able to pick up from her house since she only lives about 20 minutes from me, but she also has a web page here. The business is called "Soaptini" and via her online form you can order using Paypal. If you live in western New York you can arrange to pick up, like I did, very easy. I highly recommend her stuff. Her name is Kim and she's a real sweetheart. She got started making soap because one of her young sons has a severe skin condition. Her products are all natural. She has a great variety of products and a huge inventory of scents. I've tried:

Oatmeal Stout (beer soap): Absolutely divine.

Cherry Almond: Words cannot capture how good this smells.

Brown Sugar & Butter: !

Monkey Farts: Ok, I hate the name, but she did it to appeal to kids (and it does, Henry has a bar) but it smells FAB, like banana cream pie.

Chocolatini: This is the one Henry wanted to eat; smells like a brownie.

Aloe & Clove: This was the scent in the sample lotion; very fresh and true to its name.

Check out "Soaptini", great Mother's Day gifts. I *need* more of the hemp lotion and have already messaged her on Facebook about picking some up next week. :) Search for SOAPtini on Facebook to like her page and get updates.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Just numb...

I don't want to depress any of us further, but I'm starting to think that checking the national news, you know, EVER, is a bad, bad idea. Like everybody else in the country today, I'm feeling blue. Having children makes seeing stories of any kind of violence SO much more painful, as if to make things even worse.

Between the Boston Marathon bombing and the Gosnell murder trial details, I can barely sleep. And just seeing the word "Newtown" still makes me shut down in emotional pain, but I've tried to do my best to not cry anymore about that and move on, because what else *can* we do?

Interestingly, at my very secular place of employment when I was on my lunchtime walk I espied a pro-life demonstration out in front of the Student Union. But seeing the pictures that they had set up nearly sent me over the edge of breaking down in public and having people stare at me oddly. I feel emotionally battered today, and I know that I have it so much better than people with physical reminders of these horrible events.

But seriously, the news websites? We have mass murder, rape and pillaging, various natural disasters and fears of a deadly bird flu outbreak. Oh great, in the local news let's read about someone setting a dog on fire. It's enough to put a person into a self-induced coma.

I'm clinging to my rosary and praying. There's really nothing else to say. Let us just pray.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Upcoming bellydance gigs...

After a quiet bellydance winter, performance season is upon us again and I'm happily gearing up.

My performance group has a charity event on Friday and we've been practicing our glittery buns off for weeks now. Friday was our last class before the event so were in high rehearsal mode. I was so sick of the song "Howa Habibi" by the end of the night I could hardly swirl my veil anymore. This performance has the added challenge of it taking place on a modeling runway. Not sure how this one is going to work out, hopefully not with me in a heap of silk and beads on the floor.

After that, we'll be in full scale hafla mode. Our hafla is just over a month away and I've been listening to Middle Eastern music in every waking moment trying to select a song for my solo. I think I've finally managed this significant feat, choosing a drummy, slightly jazzier cover of the classic Egyptian tune "Leylet Hob." The nice thing about the song is that is elegant and beautiful and will work with veil, sword, or no prop at all. If I decide at the last minute that I'm having a Bad Sword Day and/or am having an unmanageable case of Sword Face (which believe me, is a real affliction which should be classified by the Centers for Disease Control) I can just leave it at home and dance without it without anybody being the wiser. If I don't use sword, I may incorporate a veil. I could do a veil entrance and then drop it to "just dance," or tuck the veil in to dance half the song and then slip the veil out for a dramatic second half and finale. Because God forbid I should dance with a veil for an entire number; it and I just don't like each other well enough for that.

I'm going to play around with it a bit this week and see what I think. No matter what, I'll be improvising, but I'd like to "work on my improv" which sounds impossible but is very much not. I have a stack of what I call my "Belly Dancer Movement Vocabulary Index Cards" (patent pending :)) that I have sub-filed into 4 categories: Hips, Torso/Shoulders, Arms, and Traveling Steps. Yes, I am a nerdy librarian, but that's what I do best.

What I do now is select a card from each category, put on some music, and then improvise while making sure to incorporate in each of the movements on the cards more than once. In that way, I remember more readily movements that I don't think of often enough. What I'd like to add in is to create some loose combinations using all 4 categories that may come in handy with different types of music when I improvise. Then I'm not just relying on my movement vocabulary but I'll also have a library of combinations to choose from too.

It is guaranteed that when I improvise, you will see me do:

(1) hip drops,

(2) hip circles,

(3) figure 8's with my torso,

(4) a two step with lower undulation;

(5) the single arm pose that is in nearly every belly dance photo of myself I've ever posted to this blog.

And a real problem in improvising is that feeling of "why do I keep repeating the same 5 movements?!" So, I keep working on that. In the past year, I've come a long way, but I still have TONS of room for improvement. I'm happy that I now even *can* improvise and that I don't freak out anymore about just interpreting the music in that moment. But I notice that lately I'm feeling like I'm stringing movements together without a cohesive core, if that makes any sense. So, I'm hoping to dance some each evening after Anne goes to bed and see what I come up with. It's a joy to do, and I'm excited for what is to come.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Baby shower this weekend...

I finally finished the baby gifts I'm bringing to a shower this weekend. We have an Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket, with coordinating hat:

A teddy bear hat:

And a teddy bear :)

I'm thinking happy baby thoughts this morning, because looking at anything about the Gosnell abortion murder trial that is going on is making me so upset that I can hardly concentrate. I can't even talk about it, I'm so emotional. Let's all just pray a rosary this weekend for all precious babies, both those in utereo and those out.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Our Catholic children...

They're just so cute aren't they? Most of the time. :) But I've really been enjoying the prayer time I've established with Henry since Lent began, so I thought I would detail.

All though Lent we prayed 1 decade of the rosary together. I got Henry a beautiful set of rosary beads to commemorate his first confession and he was very excited to use them. He still adores his rosary beads, but towards Holy Week I could tell that he was looking for a change in our routine. I got him a Stations of the Cross book (well, two actually: The Way of the Cross for Children, part of the St. Joseph Picture Book series, and Magnificat's The Way of the Cross, his preference is the former) and this is his new favorite devotion. We said them on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and we just prayed them again the other night.

The new thing that we've incorporated in is reading a few lives of the saints. He LOVES this. His very favorite book for this is one that he received over a year ago, the now very hard to find A Catholic Child's Lives of the Saints. You can get a used copy on Amazon Marketplace for pennies though. I *highly* recommend it. Each featured saint has a full page color photo on thick glossy paper, plus a well-written description of their life, highlighting all the key facts that kids find fascinating. Everybody you would expect is in here, but it's obviously not exhaustive.

Since this has been going so well, while I was making another Amazon order over the weekend (I wanted a copy of Patrick Madrid's More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism and the library didn't have it; I've been on a real liturgy/traditional kick lately) I added the Illustrated Lives of the Saints Boxed Set from Catholic Book Publishing Company into my cart, which I've been wanting to get Henry for awhile. Right now this two volume set is priced at Amazon for a  steal at $15.22. These books are encompassing of all the saints on the Church calendar, and then some, is my understanding. And they are beautiful golden-edged books with ribbon page markers.

They arrived last night and Hank and I were both excited to bring them up to his room at bedtime. So far, my impression is cautiously mixed. The books are gorgeous, but the stories aren't as kid attention-grabbing as the other book that we already had, and some of the descriptions are what I would call "flowery," almost too pious and not heavy enough on real-life details. However, it is so nice to have an option to bring in saints we wouldn't have otherwise had a story about and learn some new things. Plus, the longer entries do have more detail (there are some short ones for lesser known saints), so I think we need to give it some more time to get used to. I'm sure we'll use it again tonight.

This time with Henry has been such a blessing to me. I've really felt more energized in my prayer life since Lent. Not that God is speaking directly to me or anything :) but I know that I'm putting more into it, and consequently I'm getting more out of it. It's nice to have these fruitful periods to reflect back on when a spiritual dry spell hits, and that is inevitable for everybody. I'm feeling very grateful.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A game of what's that sound?

10 pm last night: Mike and I retire to our bedroom for some, you know, alone time. We firmly close our door, secure in the knowledge that both children have white noise machines on in their rooms (BEST INVENTION EVER) and are blissfully ignorant of any sounds about to be made in the house.

Some time later: Our door re-opens. I want to use our upstairs bathroom to finish getting ready for bed, so Mike heads downstairs to use the lower restroom. As I'm washing my face, I hear...

10:45 (?) pm: "Sweetie!"

I panic. Why is he stage whispering up to me when he could wake Anne?! We all know that waking Anne is a crime punishable by death.


"Something is wrong with the sump pump, it's making a funny noise. I'm going down to investigate."

And see, we had just been reveling in the driving rain outside, saying how romantic it was. It *is* romantic, if you have a working sump pump in your basement. Oop, getting ahead of myself...

10:46 pm: I hear Mike in the basement swearing. This is a very bad sign.

10:55 pm: Mike comes upstairs.

"The sump pump is broken, I can't get it to restart, and there is water pouring into the basement."


We both rush downstairs. Mike heads down before me and when he reaches the bottom I can hear a horrible *sloshing* sound. I quickly see that the water is about ankle deep in one half of the basement and is stealthily making it's way across the floor. This is very, very bad. Mike works to get stuff up off the floor and attempts to bail some water while I call the hardware stores to see if anybody is still open. They aren't.

11:05 pm: Meanwhile, the water bailing in the basement is going poorly. Our ancient laundry tub can't drain the water as fast as it is coming in. It's still raining.

11:10 pm: Mike mumbles something about a submersible pump and calls his dad and a few friends. Nobody has aforementioned submersible pump. We come to the terrible, but inevitable, conclusion that we're going to have to call an emergency plumber, and we can't imagine that's going to be cheap.

11:15 pm: We call the emergency plumber. They charge $79 to come out, and then of course whatever the repair and labor costs. And I imagine they charge double their usual daytime rate. They say they'll call us back with an ETA.

11:30 pm: Mike is downstairs torturing himself by bailing water. We only have 1 bucket (we're so lame in emergencies), so I'm up in the kitchen waiting for the plumber to call, sipping chamomile tea and praying a rosary. 

Near midnight: Mike comes up to tell me that the rain has stopped and the water is receding a bit. We check the local radar and find that the storm has passed and we're not expecting any further rain tonight. When Mike goes back to the basement, the water has completely receded to the sump pump well.

Personally, I credit the power of my prayers. :)

The plumber still hasn't called with an ETA, and we make the decision to cancel the request. With the rain stopped, If we can just make it to 6 am when Home Depot opens, Mike can get and install a new sump pump in the morning.

Shortly after midnight: Mike goes down to secure the basement for the night and make sure everything is a-ok. I head upstairs to find...

12:05 am: Anne is crying.

*long suffering sigh*

When I retrieve her for a cuddle session, she pushes me away and throws her stuffed animal.


12:30 am: Anne is unhappily back in her crib but going to sleep, and we are finally in bed trying not to worry and fall asleep.

6:20 am: Mike wakes and heads right to Home Depot. I get Henry up and ready myself for work. I have to call in for the morning since I need to wrangle Anne for Mike to install the pump, but I'll be able to go in in the afternoon.

7:25 am: Henry heads to school, unhappy that he is missing all the excitement.

8 am: Mike returns from a second trip to Home Depot for an additional part. He commences sump pump work.

9 am: We have a working sump pump and a dry basement.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Adventures with Anne...

"Anne, do NOT joke about climbing out of your crib. Climbing - NO NO."


"No Honey, no climbing. You can get hurt."


"No, no, no jumping."

"Fall down!"

"Yes exactly, fall down, and you could get a boo boo."

"Go boom!"


Monday, April 8, 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday

It was a very nice weekend, and I lived to tell about my latest Children's Liturgy of the Word experience. Come Sunday morning, things went thusly:

I was tired, because Anne slept like garbage, not a huge break from the norm there. But I was in good spirits. I even tried to pray a rosary before I left, which had the predictable result of me getting about two Hail Mary's in before being interrupted, but no matter. I was feeling cautiously optimistic and spiritually boosted.

I snuck out of the house when Anne was distracted playing with Mike so that she wouldn't cry when she spotted Henry and I going to Mass. Henry was all excited for his first week staying by himself back in the pew while I taught Children's Liturgy. He's been asking for a long time now, and recently he's really behaved at church in such a way that I could tell he could do it, and that he had earned it. He helped me set up, but then settled in with his Magnifikid. I was armed with the readings, a Divine Mercy booklet to show the kids, and some extra free rosary beads from the church entrance.

I got a large crowd, including my two regular troublemakers. However, they were totally fine, all of them. I told them right away that we were going to do something different today, which seemed to pique everyone's interest. We said the opening prayer, and dove into the readings.

I tied everything back to a theme of God's mercy *gold star* and then pulled out my Divine Mercy booklet. As soon as I showed them the cover image they were intrigued. When I started reading the story of St. Faustina's life, I got a litany of questions:

"What's a vision?"

"How did she die?"

"What did Jesus say to her?"

I was just getting to the chaplet when I heard the congregation starting to recite the Nicene Creed. I could hardly believe it, but our time was almost up and I still had a ton of good material. Not only that, but I didn't have anybody acting up or not paying attention. Everybody was very interested and well-behaved.

I summed up the chaplet as best as I could, saying that we wouldn't have time today, but maybe in May we could say a decade of the rosary and a decade of the chaplet (very ambitious, but I usually do that to myself).

I had a couple of the free rosaries on hand and asked them all if they had a rosary at home. About half raised their hand. I told them that there were a ton of free blessed rosaries near the exits to the church and they could take one if they wanted their own, and we would be talking about the rosary again in May. This also drew a lot of interest. As we were processing out, I was asked multiple times "where the free necklaces were."

I thought that was interesting. Obviously, it was the first impression of more than one child that a rosary looks like a necklace. I definitely want to spend some time with them next month talking about using a rosary as an aid in prayer.

When I got back out to the pew, I found Henry, halo perched firmly on his head, absorbed in his missal. He did really well. We've come a long way from "the Incident."

As Henry and I were leaving, I spied a few kids picking out rosaries. It made me smile. :) All in all, it was a successful Divine Mercy Sunday.

Friday, April 5, 2013

My happy Catholic Twitter-verse

I've had a Twitter account for a few years now, but I've rarely used it until recently. With Benedict XVI's resignation and the Conclave looming this past February and March, I decided to try it out again since I knew that you could easily connect with other people talking about the same subject. I also knew that some of the Catholic podcasters that I listen to are on Twitter, and I knew their handles, so I figured I'd go in and give it another try.

Well. I didn't expect it, but I really liked it. MUCH better than Facebook.

Is there anybody else who feels like Facebook has fallen off of it's pedestal a bit of late? I'm just going to name a few of my gripes, and then we can move on with our lives, but here they are:

(1) Frequent changes. There is nothing that I hate more than change. #oldfashionedbunheadlibrarian
But it feels like Facebook often changes their interface, how you interact with your friends, and how their sponsored ads work. I feel like your friends "see" more now of what you do. As in, *everything*. Pages that you like, comments that you make on posts or photos made by people with no relationship to your other friends. I just don't need all of Facebook seeing my business, kwim? Makes me feel like I'm walking around in my underwear.

(2) The "pressure" of friend requests. I know that I don't *have* to accept anyone's friend request. But I often feel like I will hurt the feelings of the person in question if I don't. Facebook just feels like much more of a commitment than Twitter (more on that in a moment). And I also know that I can later "unfriend" somebody, but then I feel like a mean, insensitive person. Who else is with me?! Whenever I unfriend somebody, I find myself with my mouse hovering over the "Friends" indication next to their name, talking to my computer screen.

"It's not that I don't like you. I just...don't want you on my Newsfeed. Please don't feel bad."

I know that I can change my Newsfeed settings for specific people, been there, done that. Sometimes that just isn't enough. I just want them out of my Facebook life. Which leads us to...

(3) People seem to feel free to be obnoxious on Facebook. I don't know what it is, but Facebook's venue seems to let people know that they can feel free to speak their mind and then not listen to anybody else's contrary opinion and/or ridicule aforementioned contrary opinion. They also feel free to comment on others' fairly innocuous "Happy Easter!" or "Merry Christmas, everybody!" posts with nasty monologues on how any person who could call themselves a Christian should be ashamed of themselves, and that religion in general is medieval, superstitious mumbo-jumbo out to subjugate women.

Really? Would you say that to somebody's face? Maybe you would, in which case you are not very nice and I'm unlikely to be friends with you either on or off of Facebook. But if you wouldn't say something in a dinner conversation, don't say it at all!!

I've thought for some time that the reason I keep my Facebook account is for (a) the pictures and (nice) updates from friends and family who live far away from me and who otherwise I would rarely get to talk to, let alone see pictures of their kids and dogs. I really love that; (b) my belly dance community. It's wonderful, and we communicate exclusively via Facebook.

So I stay. But I'm not always happy about it.

But let's circle back to Twitter. I reignite my presence over there right before the Conclave starts. I begin to follow a bunch of Catholic organizations, publications, news agencies, and people. I get lots of quick, up-to-the-minute bits of information. I am delighted by the @conclavechimney/@conclaveseagull episode. I get quick clarification of the who the new pope is and what name he took (my confidence in my ability to understand Latin? WAY OVERRATED.)

I find that I love Twitter.

I write and retweet what I want over there, I feel free to be as Catholic as my little heart desires. And you know what? Nobody makes nasty comments. Following somebody on Twitter does not require their consent, so you can follow or stop following somebody on a whim. And you know what? Nobody will know or care. I have very few followers, but if the number goes up or down by a few in a day, I really can't tell. And if I do notice that the number has changed, I couldn't tell you who is new and who left. And yeah, I also don't care. :)

It's not nearly as personal in that way as Facebook. If I do notice on Facebook that somebody has unfriended me, I can't help but wonder why and feel somewhat slighted. It's most likely because I used to interact with that person in real life, no longer do, and don't necessarily have a pressing reason to keep in touch with them, but all the same, you feel a bit wounded. "Gee, that belly dancer took me off her friends list. Did she just not care to keep up with me? Or did I do something to offend her?!" On Twitter? I rarely even go to the list of who is following me. If I lose a follower I just assume it's because what I Tweet about didn't turn out to be what he or she was looking for. Easy come, easy go.

I feel very free to be me over at Twitter, very much the way I feel on this blog. And that is a good thing.

So, I've been continuing to Tweet and am loving it. I'm not going to list my Twitter handle here, simply because it incorporates my last name (why did I do that?! sigh). But if you'd like to follow me, leave a comment with your email address (which I will not publish) and I'll send it to you. And if you don't want to follow me, I'm totally not offended. :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A new season in my parish life...

I know that I've mentioned in the past that I've been contemplating discontinuing my participation as one of the catechists for the Children's Liturgy of the Word program at my parish. Last year, I had a couple of challenging weeks with the kids that I thought was the death knell. I think it was the lengthy Palm Sunday edition that broke the camel's back.

But then over the summer (the program is on hiatus during July and August) I didn't do anything about it. When fall rolled around again, the Director of Religious Ed. assumed that I'd be participating again and was relying on my help. We were down to only myself and two other women participating. So I stayed on.

And ultimately, I was really glad that I did. I had some really great weeks with the kids over the fall and winter and the DRE always told me how much she appreciated that she could always count on me. Henry even remembered some of the lessons and repeated little facts I'd told them about at Children's Liturgy when we were doing his nightly prayers. I felt needed and effective.

*gold star*

But as winter waned on, my feeling of being "burned out" returned with a vengeance. This program attracts children of all ages, and it's always a challenge to wrangle kids with such different needs and ability to pay attention. You've got raucous 3 and 4 year olds who can barely sit still, combined with bored and saucy 8 year olds. The past two sessions that I've done in particular I've left feeling rather upset and discouraged. There are a few older boys that come that simply refuse to listen when I ask them (repeatedly) to please not be rude, and I left feeling like, "why am I doing this?" I'm a *volunteer*. If I'm miserable, that just seems like a poor use of my time.

I'm a gentle and reserved person, and I started to wonder if my personality just wasn't right for the position anymore. Another factor is that Anne is no longer napping during the 10 am Mass and I want to bring her with me every week. When I'm doing Children's Liturgy, since Mike usually doesn't come with us, I can't bring Anne. If Henry and I go to Mass without her, she cries. Not only that, but Henry feels that he's "a big boy now" and doesn't want to go to Children's Liturgy anymore. He wants to remain in the pew and read his Missal, which means he'd have to stay by himself when I'm teaching.

After the last session that I did, just before Easter, I felt like that was it. All signs were pointing to me begging off after the current year is over, which will be in June. I didn't email the DRE right away, though. I mean, sometimes you feel differently given some time, space and prayer. Things don't always have to be *easy*, certainly, and I didn't want to give up too quickly.

I let a few weeks pass. I didn't have any other dates scheduled for the moment (we took a brief hiatus for Palm Sunday and Easter this year, thankfully), and I reveled in the freedom of just attending Mass without fretting about Children's Liturgy. I prayed about it a little.

Last week I received an email from the DRE asking me to sign up for some April dates. I did, and I'm on for this coming Sunday, but I also seized the opportunity to let her know that I wouldn't be doing the program anymore after our year is up in June. I relayed the Anne reason, which doesn't fully explain the reasons why I'm stopping, but it's certainly a large part of it. She of course understands.. And I feel RELIEVED.

It was the right decision. I'd still like to participate in the parish in some way, I'll just have to figure out how. But my primary responsibility is to take my kids to Mass, and that has to come first.

Since I only have maybe 3-4 sessions left, I'm going to try and make the best of them. This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, and so after the readings, I decided that we've going to do something different and pray a chaplet of Divine Mercy. There are a bunch of free plastic rosary beads in the entrances to the church, so I'm going to collect those to pass out. I'm hoping that it's not going to be a complete disaster, but I'll give it my all. Doing the same thing every week leads to boredom certainly, so I want to do something different with them. We'll see how it goes, sigh.

I'll report in. :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Henry gem

"Mommy, what are those guys? Their outfits are so strange. The Colby Guard?"

*I'm reading and not actually paying attention to what Henry is saying*

"What are you talking about Honey? Are you asking a question about cheese?"


*confusion abounds*

"Wait, Hank are you asking about the *Swiss Guard*? The guys that guard the pope?"

"Oh. Yeah."

Ah ha.

Gratuitous crafty pictures

I'm interrupting our normal Catholic talk to interject photos of some of my latest creations, these mysterious birthday gifts that I've been alluding to since Lent began. Yes, they are finally done and gifted to the intended recipient, so the big reveal!

I made my friend Stacy a shower pouf (is that even a word? But you know what I mean, right??)

And a dragonfly washcloth:

 Melissa was on the receiving end of my new obsession with crocheted food. She is now the proud owner of her very own slice of red velvet cake:

 And an ice cream sandwich:

Nancy's gift turned out fairly show stopping, if I do say so myself. I call him my little "wolf in sheep's clothing" since he is ironically made out of wool:

I mean, did you ever? He is the cutest thing I have ever made. And I bravely gave him away (although I wanted him for myself, BADLY.) Nancy, I hope you appreciate this sacrifice. :) And remember to keep him away from those knitted lambs you have in your office...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Some post-Easter thoughts on the new pope...

Sooooo, these past few weeks I've been gobbling up information about the new pope. Mike leaves all the newspaper articles out for me so that I can read them while I eat my morning cereal, and of course when I'm online I'm all hooked up into Catholic news and social media discussions.

And all the while, as the heady first days of his pontificate faded, I started to read, you know, STUFF. Disappointment, unhappiness. And I was very shocked to read about it at first. I mean, how could anybody be disappointed with this sweet and adorable pope?

And the thing is, the unhappiness is coming from the opposite end of the spectrum than I'm used to. What I would characterize (so this is very subjective, as I'm sure you all understand) as traditional Catholics were feeling very concerned. Admittedly, this got my attention right away. These are people that take their faith very seriously. So I took their concerns very seriously.

Sooo, the worry is that Pope Francis's more informal, easygoing style will result in him making changes to the liturgy. And the traditional Catholics that I've been referring to are concerned that this will mean that the Tridentine Rite (Latin Mass) will not be as available to them as it has been under Pope Benedict XVI.

I'm very sympathetic to this group of concerned Catholics. In fact, I would classify myself as a fairly traditional Catholic. Although I do prefer the Novus Ordo Mass over the Tridentine Rite, I support 100% the availability of this Mass for those who cherish it. And I will grant, I love being around so many other women who wear headcoverings when I do attend a Latin Mass. :) I also adore traditional Catholic devotions (I was horrified when my mother-in-law, who had lived in central Florida for well over 20 years at this point in time, asked me once when I mentioned praying the rosary if "people still did that"), traditional church architecture, and support all Church teaching.

And so, as the weeks have gone by, and I've read more about this. I can see now that Pope Francis has a different style than what we've been used to with both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. His style is, however, very consistent with his spirituality as a Jesuit.

Like many of you, I'm certain, I've read lots and lots of bad examples with regard to the Jesuit order, so I have to admit I was momentarily apprehensive when I heard the new pope was a Jesuit (if you ever read posts on secular wedding message boards about Catholic weddings, you will inevitably see someone ask about 2 Catholics wanting to get married outside, and someone will answer "find a Jesuit priest to do it! They're very flexible and understanding!"). HOWEVER, there are plenty of good examples as well, and from all accounts Pope Francis is very much one of these good examples.

I think that it all comes down to this: there haven't been many changes in the papacy within most of our lifetimes, and this pope is putting his own touches on how things are done. This is making all of us very nervous because we've gotten comfortable and used to things. But change is not a bad thing in and of itself.

I think what was bothering me so much about the whole thing is the constant "Look! Pope Francis is eschewing (fill in the blank) tradition with this much simpler way of doing things! Isn't that *fantastic*!" Well, yes, I very much like some of the things that he is doing, he's teaching us all a lot about simplicity and humility. BUT what I object to is the insinuation that his way is *so much better!* than his predecessors, namely John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who were more formal in their approach to the papacy and the liturgy (in some ways, though not in others). I just get that feeling a lot, certainly from the media coverage, but also from personal comments made to me.  And I don't think that that is fair. His approach is different, to be sure, but I don't think there can be any argument that John Paul II and Benedict XVI were invaluable examples of Christ in the life of the Church.

Anyway, food for thought: last night on the way home from work, I was listening to Catholic Weekend. Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin was on, and he was talking about this very phenomena, particularly after the Holy Thursday-washing-of-women's-feet-story that I just *knew* was going to be a THING (and no, I really do not think that Pope Francis is going to be ordaining women as a result of this, that's just the way the secular media likes to spin things). And he said that one should try to see a new papacy as an opportunity to learn new things about our faith, and consequently to grow in our faith. Getting used to a new pope is like getting used to a new exercise routine, he said, which I really liked. Both the old routine and the new one are good, but sometimes you *need* the new one in order to kick start your fitness goals again.

To come full circle, I'm not worried about the liturgy. Pope Francis does seem to prefer a simpler style, but I don't think he's going to change things for those that do flourish with more formality. Granted, my opinion is no guarantee of anything, we're going to have to wait and see what happens as his pontificate wears on, but my first impression is still a good one. I don't think he wants to alienate traditional Catholics; I think everything is going to be ok.

It's difficult to get used to, but in the end, growth will happen if we are open to it. I think that is what we are going through in the Church right now. I have no doubt that Pope Francis was chosen by the Holy Spirit. And knowing that, how can we be afraid?

I just saw that the new Ignatius Press book Francis: Pope of a New World was available for immediate Kindle download for $9.99. It is now residing happily on my Kindle. :) I'm looking forward to reading it and learning more about Pope Francis. I know that there is much that I can learn from him.

Monday, April 1, 2013

He is risen!

There we are on our way to Mass Sunday morning, Henry looking like he's posing for a mug shot, sigh.

I feel rather overwhelmed on how much I want to blog about right now, but for today I wanted to just mention that I had a beautiful Easter and I'm very much looking forward to Divine Mercy Sunday (I'm currently praying the novena).

This year, I was able to go to the Good Friday service with Anne, and I can't believe that I've lived my whole life as a Catholic without this. I LOVED it. And Anne was so good I couldn't believe it when I looked at the clock and realized that we had been there for an hour and 15 minutes and nary a peep had come out of her. I'm going to relish that experience when the inevitable time comes that I contemplate going into the witness protection program lest I be recognized in my parish again because my child embarrassed me so completely. You have to take what you can get when you're a parent to a toddler, and I'll take this.

I am *such* a liturgical person that it seems unfathomable to me that there are Christians who choose anything else, but of course, that is not a judgement at all, just an affirmation that I love my liturgy and my church. Next year, I really want to try and make the Holy Thursday Mass. I did see part of that liturgy from the national shrine on EWTN.

The sanctuary feels so different on Good Friday, so stark. The one day of the whole year that there is no consecration of the Eucharist. And Easter morning felt even sweeter. I loved reaffirming my baptismal promises. Anne got a face full of holy water after that and wasn't sure what to think of the whole experience, but I was feeling sublime. :)

And the chocolate, my God the chocolate. I don't think that even the Easter bunny has so much chocolate in HIS house as we do in ours. One word: GRANDMOTHERS.

Anyway, I have a lot on my plate today at work for whatever reason, but I also have lots of Catholic stuff on my mind. From the pope to prayer to children's liturgy of the word, no stone will go unturned. Expect lots of lengthy Catholic posts to follow this week. :)

Happy Easter everybody!